July 21, 2012
Kathryn L. Knapp
Match provides valuable opportunity for all Fire players
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - International friendlies are all about gaining experience. Saturday night's 1-0 Fire loss to Aston Villa FC was no exception. While a win would have been nice, Fire head coach Frank Klopas said the night's performance met his expectations.
"Obviously we want to go on the field and win, but I'm pleased with the effort tonight. We played a very good team," Klopas said. "For me, I got what I wanted. It was an opportunity for guys to get some minutes. They were able to get 45-60 minutes in. We want to make sure they're in a position to help out if needed. We walk away with no injuries."
Aston Villa pretty much dominated from the first whistle, controlling play. The Fire didn't even have a look at goal until the 20th minute. And at the end of the match, the Fire was out shot 14-5, including four shots on goal to one. A commanding defense silenced the home team.
"As a group, the players are defending really strong," Aston Villa Manager Paul Lambert said. "They've done excellent in these last two games."
Both games were 1-0 wins, over the Philadelphia Union and Fire respectively, during their three-game U.S. preseason tour.
"It was great for us. It was another win," Lambert said. "It helps with confidence. I like the way the team is playing right now. For a new manager it's hard, because you don't know how the players play yet or their personalities. I have nothing but praise for the way they're playing and training."
The Chicago Fire players live and breathe soccer. Most play every day. And when they're not playing, they're fans of the game. Fire forward Patrick Nyarko admitted he's a huge fan of the Premiere League and sees almost every game. He said that tonight's game was a learning tool for him and his teammates.
"I'm glad a bunch of the young kids got the chance to play tonight," Nyarko said. "If they can play well against a team like this, then they can play well in MLS games. That exposure gives them confidence."
Fire defender Dan Gargan said the experience is one-of-a-kind.
"Any time you get to play against a team who plays at this level, it's a great opportunity to help yourself and your team," Gargan said. "It gives us a chance to see what these players can do. They kept good possession. Some MLS teams that we play are similar, but it's a different type of play."
The players take away lessons from the game. One of those is that playing at a higher level requires more work and dedication. Playing at the highest level isn't all about fun and games. Rookie defender Hunter Jumper started and played the full 90 minutes for the Fire. He said that it was a great opportunity.
"The biggest thing for me was when we got tired, they were tired, but their speed of play stayed the same," Jumper said.